A few posts ago, I told the story of the tornado that destroyed my grandparents’ home in 1986. While looking for picture books about tornadoes, I found a chapter book about the tornadoes that struck Grand Island, NE in June of 1980.
I am from Nebraska, so even though I am too young to remember the disaster, I feel some claim to that piece of history. The story is told by Dan, a twelve year old boy who survived the storm with his best friend and baby brother.
The thing with tornadoes is that you know they have been sighted but you just don’t ever know for sure that they will hit you. So many people describe riding out the storm to find their home untouched while everything around them is destroyed. Maybe this is why it’s hard to believe it will ever really happen to you.
Dan and his friend Arthur are watching TV when the storm hits. Dan’s mom goes to check on a lady a few blocks away and within no time the boys are left on their own with Dan’s baby brother. Making through the tornado that rips Dan’s house apart is only the first part of a harrowing journey. The boys have to get the baby out of the rubble, broken pipes mean rising water and possible gas leaks. Arthur’s sister finds the boys and helps them get out of the basement only to find that the whole neighborhood is gone.
The amazing kids rescue an elderly neighbor and get her sent off to a shelter before going with a policeman to the shelter themselves. While heading for the shelter another tornado strikes and almost kills them. Even after reaching the safety of the sheriff’s office, the kids are still scared to death. There is no way to find their families at the different shelters and no way to tell if other communities were hit.
Ivy Ruckman does an great job writing about the hopelessness that Dan and Arthur feel. She was in a nearby town the night the storm hit, but her cousin’s family lost their homes in the storms.
I have a lot of students who like Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series, and I think this would fall right in line with those. Dan and Arthur’s story has a happy ending, but the true stories didn’t all end that way. I think kids enjoy the danger of these adventures, but they want a happy ending just like the rest of us.